By Jay Mwamba
Unlike Ireland, the United States will be at full strength for today’s friendly at Dublin’s Lansdowne Road.
The match is one of many midweek internationals — including Mexico against Bulgaria at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands tonight — featuring World Cup-bound squads.
Ten of U.S. coach Bruce Arena’s 18-man squad summoned for the Lansdowne Road tussle are from European clubs. Among these are skipper Claudio Reyna of Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur goalie Kasey Keller, Metz defender David Regis and veteran forward Ernie Stewart of Dutch side NAC Breda.
Of the eight Major League Soccer picks, the in-form Clint Mathis (MetroStars) may be the man to watch after netting three goals in Team USA’s last two outings. Mathis had a brace in the 4-2 loss to Germany last month, and got the winner in a 1-0 decision over Mexico two weeks ago.
Irish boss Mick McCarthy, meanwhile, has patched together a decent side despite injuries to captain Roy Keane, defender Stephen Carr, midfielders Mark Kennedy and Lee Carsley, goalie Alan Kelly and the ageless Niall Quinn.
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McCarthy has recalled Southampton midfielder Rory Delap and Millwall forward Richard Sadlier, while Andy O’Brien and Kevin Kilbane return after missing the 2-0 win over Denmark last month.
The rest of the team announced last week comprises goalkeepers Shay Given, Dean Kiely and Nick Colgan. The defenders are Steve Staunton, Ian Harte, Richard Dunne, Gary Breen, Gary Kelly, Ken Cunningham and Steve Finnan.
In midfield, Jason McAteer, Matt Holland, Stephen Reid, Colin Healy, and Mark Kinsella make up the numbers; while Robbie Keane, Clinton Morrison, Damien Duff, and David Connolly are the strikers.
The last meeting between Ireland and the U.S. ended in a 1-1 tie at Foxboro, Mass., in June 2000.
Channel 47 (Telemundo) will air a one-day tape delay of the Ireland-USA game Thursday at 11:30 p.m.
Spain are in Belfast for a tune-up with Sammy McIlroy’s Northern Ireland, but the real big match of today’s action pits the Republic’s Group E rivals Germany against Argentina in Stuttgart.
African champions Cameroon, also in Ireland’s group, return to Vienna, where they battled Argentina to a 2-2 tie last month, to face Austria.
In other friendlies of note, England engage Paraguay in Liverpool, France host Russia in Paris, Italy tackle Uruguay in Milan, Portugal clash with former colony Brazil in Lisbon, and Scotland entertain Nigeria’s “Super Eagles” in Aberdeen.
Other midweek friendlies featuring World Cup qualifiers are: Belgium vs. Slovakia, Croatia vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Denmark vs. Isr’l, Japan vs. Costa Rica, Mexico vs. Bulgaria, Norway vs. Sweden, Poland vs. Romania, Slovenia vs. Tunisia, South Africa vs. Ecuador, and Turkey vs. Chile.
David Beckham’s World Cup hopes were left hanging on a thread last week after he broke a bone in his left foot in Manchester United’s Champions League quarterfinal victory over Spanish club Deportivo La Coruna at Old Trafford.
Beckham, who has one of the best right foots in the world, was hit by Deportivo’s Argentinean “enforcer” Pedro Duscher and was initially told that he faced up to eight weeks out — all but ruling him out of the opening round of the finals, which start on May 31.
But a second prognosis issued two days after the incident said the 26-year-old inspirational captain could be back in six weeks, in time for England’s “Group of Death” opener against Sweden in Saitama on June 2.
Japan’s World Cup team will get up to $75,000 in bonuses per player if they advance to the second round of the finals from Group H, which also comprises Belgium, Russia and Tunisia.
According to the payment plan drawn up by the Japanese FA, there will also be an estimated 300,000 yen ($2,270) appearance fee for each first-round match and an additional 750,000 yen ($5,680) winning bonus per game for everyone, including reserves.